Why you should care

You’ve been meaning to class up your movie queue. Here’s a shortcut.

You can watch anything online. N-E-THANG. You can watch clips of ants walking on sidewalks. You can watch footage of people slurping cereal. If your entertainment standards are especially low, you can watch videos of people watching videos. But what you may not know is that the Internet also hosts fantastic short movies you’ve probably never heard of, let alone seen. You’ll be in and out in less than 15 minutes and will have seen a truly moving film, minus the suspense of watching a stranger eat bran flakes. Start with these five.

The Lunch Date (1991)— Academy Award for Best Short Film, Live Action

One of my personal favorite films (short or otherwise) is The Lunch Date. The Oscar-winning short from 1989 is, some argue, a bit pat with its message. Maybe so. But it has always impressed with its economic storytelling and sweet nature. Hardly any dialogue. No real action, aside from a couple of people eating a salad in a train station. And it boasts a well-earned surprise twist that turns an already great film into something even better.

High Maintenance (2007)— Student Academy Awards Silver Medal

Directed by Phillip Van, High Maintenance has a message wrapped in a very creepy, unsettling box. A woman and a man have an awkward conversation over dinner, barely able to mask their contempt for each other. Then things get weird. A big winner at Sundance back in 2007, this near-future sci-fi shows us why people who get exactly what they want are often the most miserable of us all.

Trevor (1995)— Academy Award for Best Short Film, Live Action

Trevor, the gay 13-year-old title character of this short film, has more than his share of problems. His parents ignore him, his friends ditch him, and he has an overwhelming urge to end his own life. And yet, the film features just as much comedy as it does tragedy. The film that went on to inspire the Trevor Project, a nonprofit organization that runs a suicide prevention hotline for LGBTQ kids and teens.

Of course, not every short film need be an Oscar winner…

If you’re into scary flicks, these last two short films are the way to go.

Doppelganger (2010)

Take a look at Doppelganger by Drew Daywalt. It doesn’t have a big budget, and the acting ain’t exactly Streep-worthy. But so what? It builds tension like crazy over the course of its five minutes. A woman gets a phone call from her fella. He warns her not to go home. This being a scary movie, the woman does just that. But that’s where the predictability ends.

Green Eyed (2012)

And then there’s Green Eyed. This one’s fun. An insufferable yuppie who has it all sees his social status collapse after a new man (monster?) starts to move in on all his friends and business contacts. At 15 minutes, it’s longer than a lot of short films, but the bitchin’ ’80s vibe and darkly comic premise are worth it. Think American Psycho meets Dorian Gray meets Miami Vice.

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